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Copyright - products and services codes - how to restructure

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:30 pm
by amg999

I have a couple of questions when it comes to copyright law.

We (start-up) have now faced with one problem where we think we might breech the law.

For our web site (global b2b catalog) we decided to utilize different categories to structure a list of products companies supplying for the civil industry.

I realized that Achilles JQS company has a solid products and services codes list (with categories) which describes all categories we need for web site. These categories are well-know and consist of standard industry terms.

However we didn’t reach an agreement with Achilles to utilize their codes and categories, thus my team has to create its own products and services categories.

- Question 1

Would it be a breech if we utilize almost the same structure like in Achilles codes but without the coding specifics and if we do some minor changes to the initial Achilles structure?

- Question 2

If yes, there will be a breech, how should we change it (restructure/rename), to not breech a copyright law? How should it look like? Can we use the same main categories (please note that terms utilized in there are common for the industry)? Should it be a significant change to Achilles structure? Would it be enough to change main structure and remove codes?

We will appreciate any input and comments.

Thank you in advance.

You can find document with Achilles codes we would like to restructure if you Google for: "Achilles product and service codes oil and gas"

Best regards,

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:49 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Serge,
I don't think there is a problem with you using the same descriptors as Achilles, especially as they appear to be generic. However you should be very careful not to just copy and paste what appears in their database. If you are sure that the way they have structured their categories and sub-categories etc is the only way this classification can work, you will be protected by something US copyright law refers to as the merger doctrine. This is based on the premise that ideas and facts alone are not protectable, but if in certain circumstances, in trying to express an idea (something which would normally be protected by copyright), there is only one way of saying or describing something, it is against public policy for the first person who first said or wrote that description to hold a monopoly in that expression of the idea. However, when you start to look at thousands of individual entries, there will probably be several occasions where the categories could be structured in alternative ways.

Let's take a random example, not related to industrial products. Say you want to classify fruit and vegetables. You could use the standard biological taxonomy of family, genus, and species etc, or you could arrange the products by whether they were fruit or vegetables, and then whether they are traditionally eaten cooked or raw, and so on. Or they could be grouped by popularity, or colour, or size. Or they might just be listed in alphabetical order since that would be the most practical system for someone who needs to order some more strawberries, but doesn't know if they come under 'berries' or 'fruits'.

As you have identified, the main intellectual property appears to lie in the numbering system that Achilles have adopted for their code system. Assuming that you create a completely new code system, then I don't see that infringing their copyright.

However as this sounds like a major investment for your business, I would advise you to get specialist legal advice if you are in doubt about how to proceed.

Thank you

Posted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:31 pm
by amg999
Hi Andy,

Thank you for your input.

It would be now interesting to hear other opinions.

Best regards,